A 13-year-old Canadian girl learns the true meaning of bravery while encountering challenges and adventure at a leatherback-turtle sanctuary in Costa Rica.
Robin lives and helps out at the Wild Place Animal Shelter run by her white family: her veterinarian father, her 11-year-old brother, Squirm, and her grandmother, Griff. Robin’s mother’s early death imprinted Robin with a generalized fear (she calls herself a “wuss”); but Griff, (the story’s wise soul who satisfyingly dispenses wise-soul observations) reassures her. Still, Robin wishes she were like her best friend, Zo-Zo, who apparently isn’t scared of anything. When Robin, Zo-Zo, Griff, and Squirm travel to Costa Rica to help a new Costa Rican friend, Carlos, with his fledgling turtle sanctuary, they find a bare-bones outfit. With enthusiasm, the Canadians, an evidently all-white crew, work with brown-skinned Carlos to help it succeed. (Reading only the tropes, there’s a whiff of white-savior overtones, but Hood-Caddy’s narrative throughout stresses the equitable passion of shared beliefs.) When Robin and Zo-Zo are kidnapped, the details are age-appropriately realistic—a hallmark throughout. Also realistically—and refreshingly—the girls don’t accomplish a daring, formulaic escape. Instead, Robin prevents Zo-Zo from doing something foolish before they are rescued, learning that not letting fear stop you is braver than bravado.
No superheroes in this inspiring story, just committed kids willing to do the hard work—internal and external—to make a positive difference. (Fiction. 10-14)